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A Shocker On A Shoestring

South Africa has seen more than its fair share of xenophobic attacks. Now, a group of African filmmakers have raised money out of thin air to put the country’s dirty linen on celluloid.

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When the chilling images of Ernesto Nhamuave burning to death on the streets of South Africa were flashed around the world in May 2008 there were howls of pain and outrage. While the wounds are still fresh, a group of African filmmakers has risked controversy to take the harrowing story to the cinema in a film titled Man on Ground.

An unexpected hand in this project came from Rosie Motene—a lifestyle TV presenter more at home with holiday homes and cocktails on the beach than violence on the streets.

“As soon as my stint with Studio 53 was done and dusted, I approached film director Akin Omotoso of T.O.M Pictures about my interest in film production,” she says.

Hakeem and Omotoso

“Akin told me about Man on Ground; the fact that he had put it on ice due to a lack of funding and asked me if I had an appetite for this kind of project and whether I’d be keen to find a way of making sure the film happened. He felt strongly about telling that story and seeing the project to completion.”

Omotoso, a Nigerian working in the South African TV and film industry, was made for the telling of filming the story of Nhamuave having endured a good deal of xenophobia himself.

“Akin and a few other colleagues had already done extensive research for Man on Ground. The storyline was done, the wish list cast had already been identified and all that was missing was funding to get the production started. We agreed that the only people that were going to get paid were the cast and crew, so we went ahead and started sourcing money to get the ball rolling,” explains Motene.

Man on Ground, a tale of terror and violence, was never going to be a box office money-spinner so Motene realized they were going to have to be creative when it came to raising money.

“We decided to try out the new ‘crowd funding’ method, despite the fact that it had never been done locally before. Crowd funding basically means that you approach the everyday man on the street, ask them to make a donation and instead of them getting a return on investment they get a credit in the movie and get to attend the premiere event once the movie is released,” she explains.

South African low budget movies cost between R3-R5 million ($366,925-$611,540) to make; Motene and her team managed to raise only R1.9 million ($232,390) through crowd funding and a few generous corporate sponsors.

“Our budget was practically a joke, considering it cost about R20 million ($2.4 million) to produce (Oscar-winning movie) Tsotsi, but we decided to start production anyway with what we had and hope for the best. We had to call in a lot of favors from family and friends, and we had to think outside the box with regard to how we were going to make the movie look like a quality production despite our obvious financial restraints,” says Motene.

“We used friends’ houses for some scenes, family members as extras and for the fire scenes we went to a place in Lenasia (South of Johannesburg), where firemen do their training by blowing up things and putting out fires.

The film took 22 days to shoot. Even though Man on Ground did not get a big cinema release, it still fared well in the accolades department. Man on Ground picked up three awards from many nominations at the African Movie Awards in Nigeria in April. It was also screened at the Cannes, Dubai and Berlin film festivals as well as at Washington University. Motene and the team have partnered with the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) and have embarked on a mission to take the movie to all corners of Africa.

“The NFVF has a very cool distribution model where they take smaller films into independent film cinemas. As soon as we are done taking the film into South African communities through screenings at churches and community halls, we will also utilize the NFVF’s resources to take it into the mining communities and other remote areas using a mobile unit that can go into the deepest and most rural of areas,” says Motene.

Man on Ground tells a story of a Nigerian investment banker living in Britain. His mother begs him to go to South Africa to look for his step-brother. He manages to overcome his hesitancy, due to some personal issues he had with his brother, to go on a journey to find him. He is caught up in xenophobic violence that results in him being burnt alive. The film stars solid actors such as Hakeem Kae-Kazeem, Fana Mokoena and Bubu Mazibuko.

“Even though there was not going to be any financial gain on my part, or anyone else who invested in the film, I felt I had to be part of this project as my way of doing something about xenophobia. I find it pathetic that even though that particular uprising was said to have been started by South Africans, the majority of the 62 lives that were lost were mainly innocent people from South Africa,” says Motene.

“What’s even more disheartening is the fact that as South Africans, we were basically turning against the very people whose countries helped us fight apartheid.”

Twenty-two days of shooting could yield food for thought for years to come.

Billionaires

Elon Musk, Kim Kardashian Endorse Kanye West Running For President

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After years of hints, Kanye West formally announced he is running for president this year in a challenge to Trump, who he once supported, and Democratic rival Joe Biden, winning support from his friend and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

KEY FACTS

  • Rounding off his Fourth of July, West tweeted on Saturday night: “We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States! #2020VISION.”
  • Musk tweeted in response: “You have my full support!”
  • Wife Kim Kardashian also publicly pledged her support, retweeting West’s statement and adding a U.S. flag emoji.
  • West’s announcement follows years of hints that he would run for office this year which he later postponed to 2024, after publicly declaring at a Fast Company event in 2019: “When I run for president in 2024…We would create so many jobs! I’m not going to run, I’m going to walk.”
  • But the rapper, who recently inked a 10-year deal with Gap through his Yeezy brand, is reportedly yet to file any paperwork to get on state election ballots, while he has missed the deadline for states including Texas, New York, and Indiana.
  • It is not known how serious West’s intentions are this time around, however, he still has time to file as an independent candidate across most states, according to Ballotpedia.
  • West’s declaration was met with skepticism on social media, while some commentators pointed out that it could work out in Trump’s favour.

KEY BACKGROUND

West’s declaration suggests the rapper is looking to cement political ambitions he has expressed throughout Trump’s presidency. West previously forged alliances with Trump, and was pictured in the Oval Office in 2018 wearing a signature Trump ‘Make America Great Again’ cap. He once called the president his “brother” and previously hit back at criticism towards his support for Trump, likening the backlash to racial discrimination. Although he says he didn’t vote in 2016, West later said he “would have voted for Trump”, and earlier this year doubled down, suggesting he would vote for him in November. But that could very well change given Saturday’s announcement.

American rapper and producer Kanye West embraces real estate developer and US President Donald Trump in the White House’s Oval Office, Washington DC, October 11, 2018. West wears a red baseball cap that reads ‘Make America Great Again,’ Trump’s campaign slogan. (Photo by Ron Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)

TANGENT

West and Musk were pictured together on July 1st, with West tweeting: “When you go to your boys [sic] house and you’re both wearing orange.”

Isabel Togoh, Forbes Staff, Business

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Current Affairs

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza Has Died

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This is a developing story.

Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza has died, the government of the Republic of Burundi announced in a statement that was posted on their twitter account.

“The Government of the Republic of Burundi announces with great sadness the unexpected death of His Excellency Pierre Nkurunziza, President of the Republic of Burundi, at the Karusi Fiftieth Anniversary Hospital following a cardiac arrest on June 8, 2020,”

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Current Affairs

Ethiopia’s First Female President On Plans To Combat Covid-19 And Resuscitate The Economy

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Ethiopia’s first female president, Sahle-Work Zewde, spoke to FORBES AFRICA’s Managing Editor, Renuka Methil, on the country’s plans to combat Covid-19 and resuscitate one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

Zewde, listed as one of Africa’s ‘50 Most Powerful Women’ in the March issue of FORBES AFRICA, says while the virus didn’t warrant the nation going into complete lockdown, it has hit some sectors of the East African country’s economy, affecting its GDP growth.

In early May, the government announced a package to bolster healthcare spending, food distribution, rebuild SMMEs, etc to support the country’s most vulnerable. Zewde also shares her views on women in the front lines, as well as reimagining education.

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